As they embarked on their weekend road trip to the B.C. Interior, the University of the Fraser Valley men’s soccer team’s post-season hopes hung in the balance.
As they drive back home to Abbotsford on Sunday evening, they find themselves with significant breathing room in the Canada West playoff race.
It was a highly productive jaunt for the Cascades – on the heels of a 1-0 victory over the UBC Okanagan Heat on Saturday in Kelowna, they picked up a 2-0 win over the Thompson Rivers WolfPack on Sunday in Kamloops.
Michael Mobilio and James Najman staked the UFV side to a two-goal lead in the first 22 minutes of play, and the Cascades defence turned in an airtight performance, limiting the WolfPack to just one shot on goal. Keeper Alex Skrzeta was required to make just one save en route to his fifth shutout of the campaign.
The Cascades improved to 7-6-1 for 22 points on the season, good for third place in the Pacific Division ahead of TRU (6-7-1, 19 points) and UBCO (5-7-2, 17 points). With four playoff berths available and UFV owning the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Heat, the Cascades require just a single point from their final two games to secure a fourth consecutive Canada West playoff berth.
Those final two games will be played at home this coming weekend, Oct. 21-22, against the UNBC Timberwolves at MRC Sports Complex. Both games kick off at 8 p.m.
“I’m pleased with the boys – they all stepped up this weekend,” UFV head coach Tom Lowndes said. “We knew we needed two performances, and we got that.
“Today was a professional performance. We got two goals, and we did what we needed to do. We killed the game off, sucked the life out of it a little bit, and we defended really well.”
Mobilio got his second goal of the season in the 10th minute, and Lowndes termed it a “weird one.” The third-year midfielder chipped in a cross intended for teammate Connor MacMillan, but it squirted past TRU keeper Claye Harsany and into the net.
Najman’s three goals this season have all come over the last four games, and his latest effort was a header in the 22nd minute off a cross from Daniel Davidson.
The Cascades had other scoring chances in the first half – notably, a header from Davidson that went just wide of the post – but it was their defence which really shone the rest of the way.
“The back four, Tammer Byrne and Sahib Phagura especially, were fantastic,” Lowndes said. “We defended well as a unit – our shape was good and we frustrated them, and made it very difficult for them to break us down.”
The Cascades’ seventh regular-season win marked a team record in UFV’s Canada West era, dating back to 2006. They had won six league games on two prior occasions, 2013 and 2014.